I just finished reading Virginia Seuffert’s delirious take on torture [No torture? What about taxes? Viewpoints, March 5]. As the words seem to come not from the twinkling woman in the photo but from some other-world of inhumanity, let me begin my response by recounting an old episode of The Twilight Zone.


The action takes place during the Civil War. A group of hungry, ragged Confederate troops is camped outside of a town. Their scouts discover that a company of Union soldiers has been literally immobilized in the streets of the town, frozen in place like statues. They then discover the cause: An old man has cast a spell from an ancient book, which he offers to the rebels. If they choose, he tells them, they can cast their own spell and immobilize all the Union troops in the field. The soldiers grab at this chance to change certain defeat into total victory for the South. But as they prepare to cast the spell, they discover that a price must be paid first: They must all surrender their souls.


 Even then, some are prepared to sell their souls rather than see their cause go down in flames, but their commander refuses the temptation, fearing for the future of a nation saved by a bargain with the Devil.


Ms. Seuffert, it seems that you’ve made that bargain, and want us to go along, and the rest of the piece is inconsequential except as grotesque entertainment. You spend five paragraphs lamely grabbing for laughs by trivializing the horrors of torture, equating the word with private S&M practices, political signs on front lawns, the toilets at Ridgeland Common, property taxes, and getting a building permit. I need not point out the lack of empathy required to find this funny.


You claim we all accept some forms of torture, and offer as an example the fact that we send criminals to prisons where they experience rapes and beatings. Well, I don’t accept this! Many of us who approve of prison sentences deplore the current barbaric prison experience, and we realize that we are not made safer when prison-hardened men and women are returned to society. More amusing than your actual attempts at humor were your comments about Basic Training. As an Army volunteer, I endured every one of the things you listed, yet for me it was not mistreatment, but a terrific experience that left me in great shape and happier than I had been in years. I would do it again if only I were younger.


 What victim of real torture would say the same?


No, Ms. Seuffert, all of this is only frantic windmilling to distract from the stakes, and the stakes are graver than having to publicly admit that one might be a hypocrite. You want us all to buy our safety and security without consideration for the price, but for some of us, the price is high indeed, whether you call it the soul or something more abstract. You ask us to save the country without asking what kind of country will survive into the future. Pay up to sleep well at night, you say, and as to how peacefully we will rest in our graves, well, worry about that later.


Sorry, but like those Confederates in that old TV show, I won’t argue in favor of preserving our safety at all costs, if, as a consequence, we preserve nothing but a nation of the damned.

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